Up­sides of look­ing down

Mick Jones is keen to ex­pose what lies be­neath your feet

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREENSPACES - Mick Jones is war­den at Dancer send Re­serve for the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust’s

THERE is so much to see and hear when you visit a na­ture re­serve in the sum­mer, but there may be an as­pect you’re miss­ing.

Many plants are still com­ing into flower, some are al­ready set­ting seed and you can find rapidly-swelling fruits. On a sunny day there will be clouds of in­sects, to both fas­ci­nate and ir­ri­tate you! Af­ter a lit­tle rain there may be an erup­tion of fungi.

Why is there such a di­ver­sity of plants and an­i­mals in spe­cial places in the Chilterns?

The an­swer is largely to be found right un­der your feet. The soil and un­der­ly­ing ge­ol­ogy has a great ef­fect on which plants are grow­ing and this, in turn, in­flu­ences the an­i­mals, large and small, you’re likely to see. The shap­ing of the land in pre­his­tory history and the us­eses us hu­mans made of it over the last few thou­sand years make it what we see to­day.

Com­monn plants can give clues about what lies be­neath eneath the The 80-mil­lion-grass or has hap­pened year-old fos­sil to the land. For found last year in­stance, rock­rose will not only tell you that chalk is close to the sur­face, but will also show that a field has been closely grazed for cen­turies.

Patches of gorse and bracken demon­strate that you’ve moved from chalk to more acid clay.

Soft rushes re­veal that a pocket of clay is re­tain­ing wa­ter. Blue­bells in­di­cate an area with fairly con­stant wood­land cover, even if it’s now a field cor­ner, and cer­tain grasses re­veal the lo­ca­tions of long-lost farms.

In some places you can get much closer to the hid­den un­der­ground world through old chalk and clay pits, but an­i­mal ex­ca­va­tions can be sur­pris­ingly re­veal­ing.

Last year I found a lovely 80 mil­lionyear-old echi­noid, a fos­silised sea-urchin, on the spoil heap out­side a badgers’ sett. Nearby, I lit­er­ally stum­bled upon an old bank and ditch in the mid­dle of the wood – all that’s left of a field sys­tem aban­doned 200 years ago.

Join me for a re­veal­ing walk look­ing at ‘What lies be­neath’ at BBOWT’s Dancer send Re­serve near Wen­dover on Sun­day, Au­gust 2.

For de­tails, see www.bbowt.org.uk/ whats-on.

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